Getting people involved

As part of my job I have often thought about what motivates somebody to get involved with Ubuntu development or more generally with Open Source development in general. There’s a couple of conclusions I came through, both through my own experience and observations and discussions with others. Here’s my Top 3:

  1. The project needs to be exciting. The atmosphere needs to be welcoming and friendly.
  2. The documentation needs to be clear.
  3. Contributors need to find their first tasks easily.

Regarding 1) I think we’re doing a great job. It’s a lot of fun to be part of the Ubuntu development team and I think almost everybody can easily say that they made lots of friends there. Working on Ubuntu is exciting, because you fix problems not only for you, but also for millions of users.

We’re actively working on 2). The newly revamped Packaging Guide is still work in progress, but expect an announcement soon.

One area of focus for this cycle should be 3). We often face new contributors who say “Yeah, I read all the documentation – what do I do now?” There’s all kinds of tasks we can set for new contributors. We can try to just point them to Harvest, we can involve them in some organised activities, and lots of other things.

In the UDS session “Initiatives to involve new developers” we discussed a very light-weight approach: if you encounter a bug that should be easy to solve, but probably not what you want to work on yourself right now, just

  • tag it as ‘bitesize’,
  • subscribe yourself,
  • add a comment saying that it should be a bug that’s simple to fix and
  • offer your help.

It’s not a huge commitment to help somebody fix one bug, so let’s all try to tag a few more to make sure we give new contributors something to sink their teeth in.

Luckily: there’s a script in oneiric’s ubuntu-dev-tools, that does just that: it’s called “bitesize”. 🙂